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  • Paul Hilchen

Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Portland Winterhawks

Photos by Paul Hilchen, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Veterans Memorial Coliseum 300 North Winning St. Portland, OR 97227

Year Opened: 1960

Capacity: 10,407

Two Homes for Junior Hockey in Portland

Veterans Memorial Coliseum is the part-time home for Portland’s WHL representative Winterhawks. The Moda Center, next door, also serves as the Hawks part-time home. Formerly the Edmonton Oil Kings, the Winterhawks have been a favorite in Portland since they moved to town in 1976.

Portland hockey dates back to the 1910’s with the Portland Rosebuds. The most recent team not named the Winterhawks was the Buckaroos, who played in the Coliseum from 1960-1975.

The franchise has had much success during their tenure in the Rose City, including winning the 1998 Memorial Cup, and a current run of back to back to back to back Western Conference championships.

Memorial Coliseum is on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architecture and glass walls that adorn the outside of the building. Some within Portland have questioned the practicality of having two buildings side by side that serve exactly the same purpose, while others have outwardly called for its demolition so a baseball stadium could be built on the site. Whatever side of the spectrum one finds themselves on, no one can deny the fact that the building has a great amount of history and character.

Food & Beverage 2

Fans on a budget might want to eat before they arrive at VMC because food prices are what I would consider very high. You can find most of the menu items at any arena – hot dogs $6, soda $6 – $6.75, popcorn $8.75, nachos $5.50 and so on. There are a few not so common items here such as Chicken & Waffles $9.50, a Pork Belly Cubano sandwich from Bunk Sandwiches $13, a Turkey BLT from Bridgetown Deli $12 and a Pulled Pork sandwich from Seven Rivers BBQ for $9.75. It’s a good idea if you do decide to eat there, make sure you get there early before the game or leave your seat before intermission because the lines are generally long.

Atmosphere 4

With the success this franchise has achieved, each game is a highly anticipated event. There are banners of former Hawks players that have spent time in the NHL adorning the front entrance most notably former Boston Bruin Cam Neely and current Chicago Blackhawk star Marian “Hurricane” Hossa. The building also pays tribute to its former tenant Portland Trailblazers. VMC was the building the Blazers won their only NBA Championship in 1977. History-minded fans will love this building as there are visions of the past throughout the halls.

One of the things I was disappointed in was the sound system. In my view this is something that can really add to a game, but the system that was used sounded very outdated. From where I was sitting, the crowd was louder than AC/DC playing when the Hawks scored a goal.

Neighborhood 4

The Rose Quarter, the area in which VMC and the Moda Center occupy, is a central locale in Portland. Considered part of the Lloyd District, the area is one of the busiest parts of town. The Oregon Convention Center, another local landmark, is not far away nor is downtown Portland.

Downtown Portland has a slew of the things to experience when visiting. At SW 5th and Oak, one of the “food cart blocks” resides. One can find just about any comfort food you can think of at one of these “carts” which aren’t necessarily carts, but actually food trucks. In any case, you can find numerous tasty treats here. Voodoo Donuts is also a Portland staple downtown.

If you’re looking for other modes of entertainment, there is a floating Maritime Museum down on the waterfront. The Portland Art Museum is also a popular destination. A bit farther out, I highly recommend the Japanese Garden. It’s a very quiet, serene place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown atmosphere. The Japanese Garden also has one of the better views of Portland as well as one of the better views of the NW mountain peaks.

Fans 5

Hockey fans are like no other sports fans, and Portland’s fans are as passionate as any I’ve ever encountered. Most sports fans are a mixed bag but hockey fans are there because they love hockey. There aren’t “just here to be seen” fans in attendance. The Hawks attract a very knowledgeable crowd who understand the ins and outs of hockey. They are a fairly respectable bunch but not afraid to let the players or the refs know their feelings. It’s a crowd parents can let their children attend and not have to worry about most of the negatives associated with this type of action.

Access 3

Near the intersection of I-5 & I-84, Memorial Coliseum is easy to get to from anywhere in Portland. There are a couple of parking structures available if you get there early enough or there are lots available at businesses for a fee. You are also able to park on the streets around the neighborhood, but expect to walk a ways. If you plan on attending via public transportation, TRI-MET offers bus service and The MAX (train) stops on the streets bordering the Rose Quarter.

Inside the arena, the hallways can get a little crowded. The bathrooms are tight as well. The seats are padded and reasonably comfortable, which is nice although the leg room available isn’t suited for people over 5’8″.

Return on Investment 4

Single game tickets range from $16-$31. Group rates range from $11.50 – $20.50, so if you want to go with friends, that’s the best value. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house but if you are an action junkie, I would recommend seats in the first 10 – 15 rows.

As a whole, attending a Winterhawks game at VMC is well worth what one pays for a ticket. The fans and the atmosphere alone makes it worth it but when all is considered, I would say it is one of the best values in minor league hockey.

Extras 3

The pre game festivities include a montage of current Hawks players as kids playing youth hockey which I think is very cool. It appears that one could buy a ride on the Zamboni during intermission. Fans can get a chance to shoot the puck for an Oregon College Savings Plan account.

If you need Hawks gear, The Winterhawks Store has just what you need. Hats, hoodies, pucks, t-shirts or if you want to go all out, authentic jerseys are available for $300.

Final Thoughts

The Winterhawks have established themselves as the hockey team in town an operating out of the smaller coliseum makes for a perfect atmosphere for hockey. The sight lines, crowd noise, and concourse create an ideal environment for junior hockey in the Rose City.

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